Favorite New Children’s Novel & Giveaway:

The Last Guardian and the Reject Bike by Darren Simon

This inspiring fantasy book about a misfit kid and a seemingly-hunk-o-junk bike that turns out to have magical powers was a big hit with my six year old son Charlie.  Completely original, the story possessed some aspects of the time-traveling adventures of The Magic Treehouse and  the magic of the Harry Potter series, as well as some Roald-Dahlish-preyed-upon-kid-conquers-all themes too. Charlie adored it from beginning to end. And what’s really cool: Author Darren Simon is from my hometown in Southern California! This novel is the first in The Gateway Chronicles series about main character Chuck and his magic bike. We can’t wait to read the next installment!

Disclosure and Giveaway: Author Darren Simon provided a copy of the book for our review. Still in new condition, he has generously agreed to give this book away to a lucky A Parent in Silver Spring reader! Leave a comment here to be entered to win this copy. The winner will be drawn on Tuesday, August 3rd.

Favorite Workout Wear & Giveaway

Marika Miracles Waist Cincher Tank With Built-In Bra

Just because it’s hot and humid doesn’t mean that we get a free pass on working out (don’t I wish!) So I’m loving this all-in-one tank and jog bra from Marika. It’s super flattering and super-supportive. I can pull this on and jog all over the neighborhood without bouncing around, or do headstands in yoga class while keeping my breasts in the same zip code. And it’s only one layer, so I don’t look lumpy or have to wash my usual two jog bras and tee.  Also, with its side zipper and cinchy Lycra fabric, it’s super slimming.

Disclosure and Giveaway: I received a free Waist Cincher Tank from Marika for review purposes, and a second tank to give away to a lucky reader. Leave a comment if you’re interested in this ingenious workout wear piece. Winner will be drawn on Tuesday August 3.

Favorite Summer Anthems

Magic by B.oB. featuring Rivers Cuomo

Giving Up the Gun by Vampire Weekend (check out the cameos in this fun video)

All Together Now by Andre 3000 (b/c even 30-something suburban moms are allowed to feel like Kobe Bryant during a workout)

So you have your cute new workout tank that holds everything in check.  Now you need some new songs that are so good, they keep you pounding the pavement, making you only stop to find the replay button on your iPod.

Favorite Beach Read:

The Opposite of Me by Sarah Pekkanen

There’s Chick Lit. And then there’s GRADE A Chick Lit. The difference between the two is like comparing canned tuna and sashimi-quality bluefin. And The Opposite of Me, the debut novel of local writer, mother and columnist Sarah Pekkanen, definitely falls into the Grade A category. I can’t stand a bodice-ripper, but an Anna Quindlen novel? Wendy Wasserstein (god rest her brainy, beautiful soul)? Jennifer Weiner? Bring it on! Here’s what Weiner herself says of Pekkanen’s best-selling story,

“Fresh and funny and satisfying. A terrific book about sisters that actually made me laugh out loud. I was completely drawn into Lindsey’s world and rooted for her from beginning to end.”

So, the queen hath spoken: There is a new duchess of Chick Lit in town. Enjoy this book on the beach, on your deck or in your bed with a glass of vino. It’s delish.

Disclosure: I purchased my own copy of The Opposite of Me. However, Sarah Pekkanen generously gifted 10 copies of the book to the MomzShare Silver Spring soiree where local women bloggers/writers became the lucky recipients of her generosity. Thank you Sarah!!

Favorite Pants & Coupons/Invitations to Special Event

Gap Slim Crop Black Pants, Gap Sexy Boot Jeans and Gap Faded Boyfriend Jeans

Finding great pants is a real chore sometimes. So I hope this information is helpful to you: my friend Amy of Teach Mama (a very slender size 2 with long legs) and I (a curvy size 8-10-12 —WHY can’t they just streamline women’s sizing like the guys?? — who’s all torso) both went home from the Gap today bearing the Slim Crop Black Pants.  Proof they work for all sizes and body types. (I know Oprah is quoted all the time, especially by chicks in my demographic, but here’s a good line of hers – imagine it delivered in her best soul sistah voice to the camera, “Honey, ain’t NOTHIN’ wrong with a size 12.”)

I also fell in love with the Sexy Boot Jeans in the new dirty vintage wash (this wash is either sold out online or not yet avail online but it’s in the stores and featured in the new ad campaigns) as pictured at left. Got to love a pair of pants that has both “sexy” and “dirty” in the title. Meow!  I also finally found a pair of super casual, super beat up Boyfriend Jeans that made me feel like cute Becky Thatcher, rather than a shady bus station lurker.

If you’re in need of pants but dreading hours in front of that three-way mirror at the mall, just go to the Gap. They have over 7 different types/cuts of ultra-flattering black pants as well as their countless denim options. I found today that the sales associates at Gap can usually eyeball you and then recommend the cuts of pants in the store that will work best for your figure.

Disclosure: Gap is providing the speakers at BlogHer 2010 with both #gapmagic black pants and denim outfits for the BlogHer conference. I know, lucky ducky me. Believe me, this stuff doesn’t happen very often. The Slim Crops and Sexy Boot Jeans were courtesy Gap.  The Boyfriends I bought for myself. And I am so picky about clothes and fashion that I would not write about them unless I really dug them.

Coupon/Special Invitation Giveaways: I have two exclusive invites to a special event at your local Gap store that entitles you to 30% off all shopping on Thursday August 5th at 6pm and the screening of a new documentary, Blue Gold: The Story of American Blue Jeans. The event is only at Gap stores, not Gap Outlet, Gap Kids, etc. The 30% off coupon must be used on Thursday. Winners will be drawn on Tuesday morning.

Favorite Baby Gift:

Baby Sleeping Bag (aka a sleep sack) from Planet Chipoupine

I’m in love with Chipoupine’s exquisite handmade baby products, straight from France. Since I’m unable to head to Paris these days or hem my pants, let alone hand-sew anything for new nieces and nephews, I believe these baby products make for the perfect baby gift. Everyone’s putting their babies back to sleep and without loose blankets, so what better way to calm a new mom’s nerves and make her feel special than a hand-sewn sleep sack for her bebe?  These sleep sacks feature arms that zip off – great for hot summers – and a zipper that’s cut on the bias, making it very easy to get onto, or off of, a sleeping baby. And that gorgeous baby in the picture at right?  That’s my niece Abbey when she visited this summer with my sister Sarah. Both gals are so beautiful they deserve nothing but the best in baby swag. Click on the photo to see the detail on the sleeping bag (as well as the detail of Abbey’s cuteness!).

Disclosure: The generous Planet Chipoupine ladies, Theadora and Ghislaine (have you ever heard such fully French names?) sent me one sleeping bag to review and keep, which was promptly given to my niece. Abbey gives it two baby thumbs up!

Those products indicated above as provided by the sponsoring companies were not solicited by me — representatives in all cases contacted me and requested that I help promote their products. I am not “required” to write about products in order to receive the review samples.  In fact, I receive many more products that I do not write about and often send right back. No matter if I received freebies or purchased myself, all opinions expressed are 100% my own. I did not receive, in any case above, additional monetary compensation beyond the review sample products.